Tag Archive: us 2009


back to summer – from the air

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over the weekend following dc, when the pebbles had gone back to nz, dad and i headed to north carolina to visit some family.  on our way back on sunday, we stopped at one of many tourable cave systems on a whim.  the guide was less than spectacular – winning combination of having given the same spiel way too many times, and speaking through an apparent mouthful of marbles – but ignoring him and some obnoxious co-tourers, the rock formations were worth seeing.  (i only had my video camera so the stills are dad’s.)

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after minnesota, we headed out to washington, dc for a week, me to work and the smithsonian and the pebbles to enjoy the sights, people-watching and dense squirrel populations of the nation’s capitol.  and indeed, there were people, sights and squirrels.

the pebbles toured the capitol building (more than i can say for myself), and even managed to pull the tour-guide up on the identity of a famous nebraskan in statue (william jennings bryan as it turns out – sigh).  i avoided the heat and crowds by prodding small squid carcasses in the natural history museum’s new, off-site lab.  but on wednesday afternoon we took a break from the busy, important people and the heat of downtown to go for a walk in the shenandoah national park, at white oak canyon, with my dad.  it was like a plunge into a cool, refreshing pool.  actually, it did involve a literal plunge into a ‘refreshing’ pool, but ‘arctic’ is a more apt descriptor than ‘cool.’  the late afternoon woods were green and dappled, the blue-tailed skinks were basking but shy, and the waterfalls were glorious as i remembered from the last time i was there, a hike with some friends on my 18th birthday.
and of course, there were more squirrels.

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on the morning we left the lake for this year, i got up to watch the sunrise and to walk my dad’s trail in the woods across the road.  here’s what i saw.

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marching right along with the traditional lake cabin activities, we canoed the kabekona river from the northwest corner of the lake about three hours downstream to the bridge at benedict.  it was a classic northwoods day, with a light breeze (occasionally providing a tail wind, even), scattered cloud, singing red-winged blackbirds and gently undulating river weed.  we caught glimpses of minnows and bluegills in the river and the occasional northern pike, as well as basking turtles, nesting swifts and darting damselflies.  the pebbles and i kayaked, while the parental units enjoyed a more serene ride in the grumman canoe.  no fishing bald eagles or ponderous blue herons this year, but a lovely crop of water lilies.

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no trip to the northwoods is complete without a pilgrimage to lake itasca, the headwaters of the mississippi river.  no  matter how many times i've been there before, i still love to wade across the ankle-deep stream within its first few recognizable meters, and wade downstream until it's nearly hip-deep.  it's humbling to contemplate where the low, quiet water flowing through the woods will eventually wind up.  the river actually flows north for its first few dozen miles and is a beautiful, several-day canoe trip (as illustrated in this beautiful children's book).  i paddled it with a friend in 2003 and seldom have i spent a more peaceful four days, or seen fewer people – we stayed in several campsites that were river-access only and no one else was anywhere nearby.  we did see snapping turtles, eagles, herons, and wild otters.

even in itasca state park, which on any beautiful summer day will be crawling with tourists from near and far, there are good flora and fauna to be seen if you take the time.

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over the weekend that followed our first week at the cabin, we traveled down to the twin cities to host ‘we do – part 2,’ the north american component of our wedding.  the celebratory activities included a hair-raising, stress-relieving, rootin’-tootin’ good visit to valleyfair; a ceremini complete with cutting of the wedding cheese; a dinner cruise on the st croix river; a picnic brunch at como park; and a tour of the historic james j. hill mansion in st paul.

of course, out of all those activities, the most interesting wildlife and photo ops were at como park.

for some reason, all the mammals were sleepy (some more than others).

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(reconstructed in the pale, watery, wintry auckland sun – i can see my breath)

while spam was visiting, we made the necessary pilgrimage to the marktplatz, where we'd met 14 years earlier.  in addition to startling some old friends, dodging hurled bakers' pans and hearing dubious tales of rabid local canines, we took a sunset walk around buck lake.  i know i've nattered on about buck lake before, so i'll just post the pictures and let them speak for themselves.

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back to summer – minnesota, part 1

(continuing to reconstruct the june-july trip to north america)

after the california weekend, i headed to the lake, while the pebbles went to vancouver for a week.  the northwoods were as beautiful and peaceful as always, in their verdant summer foliage; the lake was like glass in the morning, and gave birth to millions of mayflies at dusk; the phoebes called their names all day long and darted around to feed their ravenous broods.  the water was clearer than i'd ever seen it and the stones at the bottom could be seen even at night.  my old friend spam stopped in for a few days and we swam, stargazed and scrabbled, and visited good people up at clv

we were treated to abundant wildlife encounters, too.  spam had just been hiking on his own in the woods for a few days and had run into a badger, a bear and a wolf, so he got the major bragging rights, but we didn't do too badly in the woods around the cabin either.

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